The big idea
This is not how Biden wanted to go to the U.N.
President Biden is trying to get his trip this week to the U.N. General Assembly back on script, after setbacks related to the pandemic and his ambitious domestic agenda, as well as a furious spat with France over a U.S.-Australia submarine deal that Paris has branded a betrayal.
The president, who addresses UNGA on Tuesday, had hoped to galvanize global action on coronavirus vaccination, rally like-minded allies behind a tougher line on China, set the table for a “summit of democracies” in December and pave the way for collective action at a major climate-change summit in Glasgow, Scotland, Oct. 31-Nov 12.
But he heads to New York as the centerpiece of his climate policy faces an uncertain legislative future, the pandemic he promised to tame claims about 2,000 U.S. lives per day, and his vaccine booster plan sits in limbo. And his administration has had to admit to a disastrous airstrike in Afghanistan that killed only civilians, including children, after a chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops that upset key allies.
And even if he can give das boot (sorry) to the feud with France, Biden heads to the annual gathering grappling with other transatlantic rifts that have dampened European enthusiasm after his well received “America is back” trip to Brussels in June.
The Aug. 31 withdrawal from Afghanistan did not sit well with major NATO allies like Britain, France and Germany. And Europeans complain Biden hasn’t yet fully lifted a range of tariffs former president Donald Trump imposed on E.U. products.
One particular frustration in European capitals has been the president’s refusal to rescind a ban on most Europeans, whether vaccinated or not, traveling to the United States, which went into force in mid-March 2020. (The Financial Times is reporting the Biden administration will announce today that it is easing the restrictions for vaccinated Europeans starting in November.)
Fight with the French
But those are relatively simmering disputes compared with the boiling anger from Paris over the submarine fight.
My colleagues Tyler Pager, Anne Gearan, and John Hudson reported last night: “Biden is pressing to set up a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron in coming days, U.S. officials said Sunday, hoping to end a frantic stretch of public snubs and behind-the-scenes exchanges between the two allies.
"The two leaders have not spoken since French leaders erupted last week at Biden’s announcement that the U.S. was forming a new defense alliance with Australia and the United Kingdom focused on the Indo-Pacific. As part of the deal, the U.S. will share nuclear submarine technology with Australia, prompting the Australians to drop a $66 billion submarine contract with France.
"U.S. officials conceded Sunday they have been surprised by the strength of France’s reaction, which included abruptly recalling its ambassador from Washington last week. They privately attributed the spat largely to internal French politics as Macron seeks reelection, but said they were nonetheless working urgently to tamp down the flare-up and avoid further inflaming a close ally.”
Well, yes, Macron is embarking on what is expected to be a difficult reelection campaign. But that’s the thing about working with leaders of democracies: You don’t want to make them have to choose between working with you and keeping their voters happy.
Behind U.S. officials praising “our oldest ally” and celebrating a range of common interests and concerns is the cold reality that the relationship with France has regularly come under strain since Sept. 11 because of unilateral actions from Washington.
French President Jacques Chirac was the first foreign leader to visit the White House after the attacks. But barely a year later his opposition to invading Iraq had Congress renaming french fries as “Freedom Fries” (for the French, fries are Belgian) while conservatives quoted The Simpsons’s derision for “cheese-eating surrender monkeys.”
By 2005, the two sides had patched things up and worked to roll back Syrian influence in Lebanon. In 2013, the relationship took two hits. First, President Barack Obama suddenly backed off military strikes in Syria, which Paris had publicly supported and planned to join despite resistance at home. Then came the disclosures the NSA had spied on millions of French phone calls and emails. Then in 2017, Trump overrode Macron’s objections and quit the Paris agreement on climate.
At no point in any of those disputes did France recall its ambassador to Washington, which it did last week.
Biden’s efforts to secure a call with Macron suggest an eagerness to clear the air before New York.
But it remains to be seen whether the French president has moved on from a principle he laid out in a May 2017 interview with Le Journal du Dimanche.
“I don’t let anything slide,” Macron said at the time. “That’s how one makes oneself respected.”
What's happening now
The White House relaxed its covid-19 travel ban on visitors from 33 countries. “Foreign nationals flying to the United States will be required to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus and test negative when the policy takes effect in early November,” our colleagues report.
A low dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is safe and effective in children ages 5 to 11, the drug companies announced this morning, per Carolyn Y. Johnson.
The FDA’s decision on booster shots for those who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is expected to be made this week. The administration is likely to authorize the third shot, per the New York Times.
“The Trump Organization’s lawyers and Allen Weisselberg are set to appear in a New York state courtroom” this morning, the Wall Street Journal’s Corinne Ramey and Deanna Paul report. This marks “the first public court proceeding since the former president’s company and its finance chief were indicted earlier this summer.”
Lunchtime reads from The Post
- State health officials are bracing for confusion as they manage expectations about coronavirus boosters that Biden announced last month would be widely available to adults this week, Lena Sun reports. “Even though federal officials emphasized that the plan required FDA and CDC approval, specifying a date has meant ‘the expectation has been set by the administration that we now have to manage,’ said Michael Fraser, executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.”
- Republicans are maneuvering to block vaccine mandates, including Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis, who once sounded like a champion of vaccines but is now “devoting much of his time to battling any business or government agency that would require workers to get the shot,” Yasmeen Abutaleb and Annie Linskey report. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp are “also stepping forward to oppose local mandates in their states in the name of protecting individual liberty.” This rhetoric “is making it harder for the country to move past the virus, some experts say.”
- Broad majorities of Americans oppose key provisions of the restrictive Texas abortion law, and 54 percent also disagree with the recent Supreme Court decision that allowed the law, according to a new Monmouth University Poll. The Texas law relies on private citizens to sue people who help women get forbidden abortions, John Wagner reports. The poll found that 70 percent of Americans “disapprove of allowing private citizens to use lawsuits to enforce the law rather than having government prosecutors handle cases.”
… and beyond
- The phony election fraud conspiracies are infecting the midterms, Politico’s David Siders and Zach Montellaro report. “The Big Lie is metastasizing, with Republicans throughout the country raising the specter of rigged elections in their own campaigns ahead of the midterms.”
- U.S. troops are still deploying to Iraq, even as the war in Afghanistan ends. “The United States still has boots on the ground in the other nation it invaded in the wake of 9/11. About 2,500 American troops are in Iraq now, the embers of what was once a scorching and divisive war, now carefully scattered to protect a few strategic bases. For the next nine months, roughly 2,000 soldiers from First Brigade will take over much of that duty,” the New York Times’s Dave Philipps reports.
- “A Chinese student in Canada had two followers on Twitter. He still didn’t escape Beijing’s threats over online activity,” the Toronto Star’s Joanna Chiu reports.
On Capitol Hill
The White House is ruling out concessions to the GOP on the debt ceiling.
- What's new (old): Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) "has not communicated any requests to the administration of what he wants in exchange for support for the suspension,” Jeff Stein reports. “Even if McConnell does outline a proposal, the White House has no intention of rewarding the GOP for trying to use the debt ceiling as leverage in other negotiations, the officials said, with one describing the position as ‘a matter of principle.’ ”
- Context: “Republicans have argued that Democrats have the votes to increase the debt limit on their own and should do so given that Democrats are pushing trillions of dollars in new spending priorities. Democrats have rejected that approach because they do not believe they should be solely responsible for voting to prevent a national default and because the current national debt was created by both parties.”
- More context: “GOP lawmakers during the Trump administration voted three times to suspend the debt ceiling. Federal policymakers added trillions of dollars to the federal debt during Trump’s presidency — significantly more than has been added by Biden — with the support of Republican leaders. The $28 trillion national debt rose by roughly $7.8 trillion during the Trump administration.”
Meanwhile, other issues with the budget bill are rising.
- As they try to reduce the bill’s $3.5 trillion cost, Democrats are disagreeing “over whether to prioritize expanding coverage to more poor adults in states whose leaders have refused to do so or to give new Medicare benefits to older people across income levels,” the Times’s Jonathan Weisman and Sheryl Gay Stolberg report. “Southern Democrats, in particular, are urging their leaders to prioritize insurance coverage for 4.4 million working poor people in the 12 states, mostly in the South, with Republican or divided leadership that have refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. But progressives, led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are adamant about giving older Americans dental, hearing and vision coverage.”
In a year that kicked off with the deadly Jan. 6 attack, threats against members of Congress are skyrocketing.
- “In the first three months of the year, Capitol Police recorded 4,135 threats against Congress members. If that pace continues, total threats in 2021 will double those in 2020,” the Los Angeles Times’s Sarah Wire reports.
- “A few months ago Rep. Norma Torres (D-Pomona) received an anonymous video of someone following her car. The camera pans down to a 9mm handgun on the seat as a male voice says: ‘I see you. I got something for you.”
- “Police intervened in January when more than a dozen Trump supporters confronted, surrounded and threatened Rep. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) as he was catching a flight at a Washington airport.”
- Capitol Police are rethinking the way they protect Congress members in and outside Washington. The force is now forging closer ties with the FBI and opening satellite offices outside D.C. for the first time.
- The scares are also changing the job for lawmakers. “After Jan. 6, some members temporarily relocated their families over concerns that people would target their homes. Others wore bulletproof vests to the presidential inauguration.”
The Biden agenda
Biden will launch a response to health harms from extreme heat.
- “Under a plan to be announced Monday, the U.S. Departments of Labor and of Health and Human Services as well as other federal agencies are launching actions intended to reduce heat-related illness and protect public health,” the AP’s Matthew Daly reports.
- Looking ahead: The move comes ahead of Biden’s meeting with world leaders during this week’s U.N. General Assembly. Expect climate change to be one of the session's top issues.
Residents of Del Rio, a border town in Texas, are feeling the impact of the migrant crisis.
- More than 14,000 Haitian migrants crowded under and around the town’s international bridge while awaiting processing by border authorities, the Times’s Edgar Sandoval and James Dobbins report. “The masses of humanity that have shocked and dismayed people seeing them on their phones and televisions this past week have been especially straining to the city and people who lie just beyond that bridge.”
- Most of the migrants who were around the bridge have been transferred to other border locations for processing or were flown back to Haiti on deportation flights that began yesterday, the Times reports. But “local police and jails have been overwhelmed with cases in recent weeks of migrants who ventured into town, and sometimes private property.”
Indiana’s redistricting map, visualized
In Indiana, the Republican-controlled state legislature last Tuesday released its plan for the state’s nine congressional districts. The plan would turn the state’s most competitive district into a Republican stronghold, a Post analysis shows. The Post analyzed other states, like Colorado and Oregon, proposed congressional maps.
Hot on the left
Nearly 900 state legislators are urging the Supreme Court to uphold Roe v. Wade and reject Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. “The brief was filed Monday morning by the State Innovation Exchange, a progressive legislation advocacy group, in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. Opening arguments before the high court are scheduled to begin this fall,” NBC News’s Adam Edelman reports. “Of the amicus brief’s 897 signatory lawmakers, all were Democrats with the exception of two independents. Legislators from every state except Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Wyoming signed.”
Hot on the right
Guests did not have to wear face masks during Sunday night’s Emmys ceremony, causing outrage online at the double standard:
Today in Washington
Biden will fly to New York City to participate in a bilateral meeting with U.N. Secretary General António Guterres at 6:30 p.m.
Harris will host a reception for the Congressional Black Caucus’s 50th anniversary at 4 p.m.
Near the fall equinox, D.C.’s sunrises perfectly align with the monuments. “On Sunday morning, there were no weather spoilers. Instead, there was a beautiful sunrise over Washington,” Kevin Ambrose writes, resulting in some great shots:
Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.